We caught up with Cambridge-born Ben Barker to trace his journey in to international sports car racing, via Australia and through the Porsche Pyramid by working his way up from Carrera Cup in to Supercup and ultimately on to FIA World Endurance Championship.
After working his way up through karting, Barker took on the British Formula Ford championship before heading to Australia to take part in the national Formula 3 championship.
“My good friend James Winslow was racing out there in F3 and made me aware of the championship.” explained Barker to The Checkred Flag. “I wanted to tick off F3 with GT’s firmly in my mind for the future, but didn’t have budget to do so in Europe.
“Australia was viable, being a sensible budget due to the exchange rate at the time and there was also domestic sponsorship funding that was on offer, so a no brainer really.”
2010 saw Barker take three wins and a championship in the Formula 3 Australia – East Coast shootout followed by six further wins and another championship title in the Formula 3 Australian Gold Star Drivers Championship.
It was then that Barker had the opportunity to test a Porsche Carrera GT3 Cup car with his F3 team.
“Porsche racing wasn’t really the goal… until I had an opportunity to test the car with my F3 team (BRM), then from that point I was a flat 6 freak!”
For 2011 Barker moved in to the City Index Porsche Carrera Cup Australia Championship, taking two wins and six podiums on the way to fifth in the championship. He also made an impact in Porsche Carrera Cup GB where he took two third place finishes from four races.
A full-time move to Carrera Cup GB for the 2012 was on the cards and Barker sunk his teeth in to the opportunity, pushing eventual champion Michael Meadows through the season, taking five race wins to become vice-champion.
During his time in racing Porsche’s Barker has experienced racing in Australia, Great Britain, Asia and Germany, while the racing is close in all competitions, he has his favourites.
“From a track/calendar perspective you cannot beat Carrera Cup Australia, following the V8 Supercars to street tracks like Gold coast, Albert Park and Bathurst. I’m sorry Croft, Rockingham and Thruxton but you’ve got nothing over them!
“Competition is strong in all championships the only difference is the depth of talent, Australia and GB being a fast top five, where as Carrera Cup Deutschland and Supercup is more like twelve or more who could all win races.”
In 2014 Carrera Cup GB joined forces with its French compatriots to support the 24 hours of Le mans, the race victory for Barker is high on his list of favourite memories from Carrera Cup.
“Winning the Le Mans GB/ France race at Le Mans, pretty awesome podium that I would happily stand on again, Monaco podium is also a highlighted memory.”
While cars that run in both Carrera Cup and Supercup are the same, there was some small adjustments needed in driving styles in stepping up to the international stage.
“It took some adjusting and understanding, the tracks are so different to one another due to temperature and surface variables. Perhaps the biggest element was how the track changes from Free Practice to Qualifying and Race due to the Formula 1 Pirelli compounds being laid down throughout the weekend.”
One-make competitions like Carrera Cup and Supercup present an opportunity for talent to shine through, it also helps drivers to focus on their race craft with equal machinery.
“It teaches you to deal with high intensity situations in shorter time windows, like qualifying and a 30 min race. Full focus is on the driver and our own performance, which is only a good thing wether you have a good car or bad car, sometimes you have to suck it up and get the best out of a bad situation.”
Racing Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup helped pave the way for Barker to progress in to endurance racing, first to America and then on to the FIA World Endurance Championship.
“I think being a podium/top 5 driver in Supercup puts you on the map to a degree, this led to me being asked to race in America as a silver rated driver back in 2014. The biggest thing I learnt was how to control risk. Long stints your body and mind tires and its easy to lose focus and make mistakes when pushing.
2019 has saw Barker start the year back in Australia as he secured his third Bathurst 12 Hour Race Class B victory, along with this and his FIA WEC duties he is on hand as a driver coach and very often seen in the Carrera Cup GB paddock with the In2Racing team offering his expertise to the team.
“You don’t experience the same adrenalin as standing not the top step yourself, but it is mega seeing someone you’ve helped get that same feeling as I have been fortunate enough to also feel.” comments Barker.
The focus for Barker is now on the the 24 Hours of Le Mans as he looks to bring home some silverware for the Gulf Racing team, he is also hoping to secure a drive for the 2019 Total 24 Hours of Spa race.